March 17, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Junior Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) won a three-set match to give the second-seeded and 20th-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (12-4) a 4-2 St. Patrick’s Day victory against #56 Fresno State (9-4) Friday afternoon in the Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic at the Lagoon Park Tennis Center. The Irish have now won 10 consecutive matches and are in the semifinals of the prestigious tournament for the seventh time, but first since 2002.
Notre Dame won the doubles point with a victory in the final match remaining and then got straight-set victories at Nos. 2 and 5. The Bulldogs earned two-set wins at Nos. 3 and 4 and were on the verge of another at No. 6 (that match was abandoned with Fresno State holding match point), which made it clear that the No. 1 match between 13th-ranked Bass and 75th-ranked Jakub Cech of the Czech Republic would be the decisive one. The Irish junior eventually prevailed 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. He leads the Irish in singles victories this season with a 23-6 record, including 10-5 in dual play at No. 1. Bass also has a 6-1 career singles record in the Blue-Gray Classic.
“It was great to see Stephen fight hard and gut out a win,” said Irish head coach Bob Bayliss. “He has been in that situation several times this spring, and I was pleased to see him come through for us.”
After having lost the doubles point in three of their last four chances, Notre Dame took a 1-0 lead on Friday, thanks to senior Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.) and sophomore Andrew Roth (Houston, Texas/Tenney School). That Irish duo held a 5-1 lead against Charles Irie from the Ivory Coast and Rudolf Siwy from the Czech Republic, but saw the Bulldogs rally to break serve twice. Langenkamp and Roth then broke back for an 8-6 victory to put Notre Dame ahead. The ND team – which had not paired together since Feb. 11 – is now unbeaten in four matches. Langenkamp leads the Irish in doubles victories with a 13-7 mark, including 10-5 in dual play, and it was his 50th career win in partnered play (the most for any active Notre Dame competitor). Roth – who was making his first career appearance at No. 2 – stands 12-4 overall and 8-3 in dual action this season.
Junior Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s H.S.) and sophomore Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.) set up the point with an 8-5 victory at No. 1 against Sergiu Modoc from the Ivory Coast and Sam Gibbs, one of just two Americans on Fresno State’s nine-player roster. The Irish duo is 2-1 since being first paired together last week.
In the quickest match, Cech and Sam Tadevosian won 8-5 against junior Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College) and freshman Santiago Montoya (Scottsdale, Ariz./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School [TX]) – teaming together for the first time – at No. 3.
First off in singles was 106th-ranked King, who beat Tadevosian 6-1, 6-2 at No. 5 to put Notre Dame ahead 2-0. The Irishman has now won four consecutive matches and is 10-5 on the season. He improved his career singles record in the Blue-Gray to 6-1.
Siwy got Fresno State on the board with a 6-2, 6-3 upset of 89th-ranked freshman Brett Helgeson (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley West H.S.) at No. 3, but 33rd-ranked Parbhu struck back at No. 2, beating Modoc 6-3, 6-4 to put the Irish within a point of victory. The Notre Dame sophomore has won four straight and stands 22-5 on the season, including 11-3 in dual action.
Irie then dealt Keckley only his second defeat of the dual-match season, in the form of a 7-5, 7-6 (7-3) decision at No. 4. It snapped a nine-match winning streak for the Irish junior.
Fresno State was on the verge of a victory at No. 6, as freshman Jordi Ballester from Spain was up 7-6, 5-1 and only a single point from victory against Langenkamp when the match was abandoned.
The Irish are now the top seed remaining in the tournament after the No. 1 seed, 12th-ranked Louisville, dropped a 4-0 decision to #39 Tulsa on Friday. Notre Dame will take on fourth-seeded and 32nd-ranked Boise State (10-3) at Noon (CT) on Saturday in one semifinal, while the Golden Hurricane (11-4) will meet third-seeded and 26th-ranked Virginia Commonwealth (14-4) – which won the tournament in 2003 and ’04 – in the other. Both the Irish and the Rams are trying to join USC as the only schools ever to win three Blue-Gray titles.
Boise State also will enter Saturday with a 10-match winning streak, standing 10-3 following three straight losses to start the spring. It will be the eighth all-time meeting between Notre Dame and the Broncos, with half of those coming in the Blue-Gray Classic. Boise State leads the series 4-3 and has won all three Blue-Gray matchups, prevailing 4-3 in the 1998 final, 4-0 in consolation action in 2003, and 4-3 in last year’s quarterfinals (when Notre Dame was ranked 19th and seeded second). The last Irish win over the Broncos came in 1999.
Friday was a rematch of the 2001 Blue-Gray title match, which the Irish won by the same score. Notre Dame now leads the all-time series with the Bulldogs by a 3-1 count.
The Irish – who sported new green hats for the occasion – reversed some recent bad fortunes on St. Patrick’s Days. Notre Dame had been just 2-6 on March 17 during Bayliss’ tenure. The Irish now stand 9-9 all-time on St. Patrick’s Day.
#20 Notre Dame 4, #56 Fresno State 2SinglesNo. 1: #13 Stephen Bass (ND) def. #75 Jakub Cech (FSU) 6-3, 4-6, 6-2No. 2: #33 Sheeva Parbhu (ND) def. Serqui Modoc (FSU) 6-3, 6-4No. 3: Rudolf Siwy (FSU) def. #89 Brett Helgeson (ND) 6-2, 6-3No. 4: Charles Irie (FSU) def. Ryan Keckley (ND) 7-5, 7-6 (7-3)No. 5: #106 Barry King (ND) def. Sam Tadevosian (FSU) 6-1, 6-2No. 6: Jordi Ballester (FSU) led Eric Langenkamp (ND) 7-6, 5-1, abandonedOrder of Finish: 5, 3, 2, 4, 1*DoublesNo. 1: Keckley/Parbhu (ND) def. Sam Gibbs/Modoc (FSU) 8-5No. 2: Langenkamp/Andrew Roth (ND) def. Irie/Siwy (FSU) 8-6No. 3: Cech/Tadevosian (FSU) def. King/Santiago Montoya (ND) 8-5Order of Finish: 3, 1, 2** - indicates clinching victory